Hisar, Haryana: Policemen in riot gear stormed controversial guru Rampal’s sprawling ashram at Hisar in Haryana today as thousands of his supporters fought to prevent his arrest in connection with a murder case.
The police could not, however, find the 63-year-old self-styled godman, who has been hiding at his “Satlok ashram” in Barwala town for nearly two weeks, using women and children as shields.
Here are 10 developments in this story:
An 11-day stand-off ended in a massive showdown as the police on Tuesday used teargas, batons, water cannons and bulldozers to try and disperse Rampal’s supporters. At least 2000 people, including women and infants, were sitting outside the ashram as a human wall, said Haryana police chief SN Vashishth.
Armed devotees calling themselves ‘Baba’s Commandos’ tried to hold off the police, armed with acid pouches, sticks and stones. Petrol bombs were allegedly also thrown at the police.
Hours later, after tearing down the main gate and wall of the ashram, the police found over a hundred women and children allegedly held hostage, but there was no sign of Rampal.
The police have called off their search till Wednesday; they say the ashram is built like a maze in which deadly traps have been laid. The policemen were allegedly attacked with acid and petrol bombs.
Around 100 people, including policemen were injured in the clashes while thick smoke from the ashram’s roof and gunshots turned the 12-acre complex into a warzone.
Among the injured were about 70 journalists, including the NDTV crew. A policeman was seen in visuals attacking a journalist holding a mic. The National Human Rights Commission has asked the Haryana police to explain why the media was attacked.
Rampal, an engineer-turned-guru, has repeatedly ignored court summons to appear for questioning in the 2006 killing of a villager by his supporters. The Punjab and Haryana High Court summoned him after his supporters allegedly attacked lawyers during a hearing on the murder case in July. Rampal has skipped court 43 times in four years.
The court has ordered Rampal’s arrest by Friday. Despite three warrants since November 5, the controversial guru has managed to avoid arrest, fortified by armed supporters at his ashram. Haryana’s ruling BJP also sent its leaders to try and persuade the guru into surrendering, in back-channel talks.
This morning, some of his followers met Home Minister Rajnath Singh and asked for help to prevent his arrest. They were reportedly told that rules need to be followed.
To force Rampal out of hiding, the district has stopped water and power supply to the ashram and blocked food deliveries. Many devotees left the ashram this morning alleging that they were forced to stay by the baba and his supporters.